How to Make a Solar Energy Plane

Written by kurt larsen
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How to Make a Solar Energy Plane
Just about any lightweight RC plane can be powered with solar cells. (rc aeroplane, image by Greg Pickens from

With solar power getting so much attention around the world, people are finding many different ways to employ it. The aviation industry is already exploring the possibilities of using solar energy to power commercial airliners. As a hobbyist, you can beat the aviation industry to the punch. Try your own hand at using solar power by building a model plane powered with solar energy.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • RC plane
  • Solar cells
  • Volt meter
  • Small drill
  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder
  • 20-to-100-volt wire
  • Glue
  • Aluminium foil

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  1. 1

    Cut a small amount of the plastic covering off of the two wires connecting the plane to its battery. Using the wires, measure the voltage of your RC plane's battery using the volt meter. Note your results, as the end goal will be to duplicate your measurements with solar cells.

  2. 2

    Cut the battery wires and take the battery out of the plane.

  3. 3

    Place the desired amount of solar cells -- the total power should be equal to or greater than that of the battery -- on a piece of aluminium foil that has been cut so that it accommodates the cells, with approximately 1/2 inch of leeway on each side.

  4. 4

    Cut two pieces of 20-to-100-volt wire. Connect them to the left and right sides of the cells on the aluminium solar panel by folding the extra foil over the wire pieces, effectively creating a positive and negative energy flow.

  5. 5

    Drill two holes, one on each side of the plane. The holes should be just large enough to accommodate the wire. Solder the positive and negative wires connected to the aluminium foil solar panel to the respective wires connected to the plane's engine -- positive to positive, negative to negative.

  6. 6

    Glue the solar cells to the wings of the plane, distributing the cells evenly on each wing. Take your time, as improper gluing can botch the project.

  7. 7

    Lay the plane in the sun for at least five minutes to allow the cells to generate power.

  8. 8

    Turn the plane on and begin operating.

Tips and warnings

  • If you notice your plane's power is weak, allow it to sit in the sun for a few extra minutes to charge.
  • Do not use hot glue, as it can ruin your solar cells.
  • Soldering irons can be dangerous when hot. Always pay attention when using a soldering iron.

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